After a bad night working second shift, Joe feels too keyed up to go straight to bed – but a workout at his 24/7 gym sounds like a great idea! 
He swipes his member card, changes into gym clothes, and jumps on the treadmill.  It’s great to be there alone – until the chest pains start.  Joe staggers towards the locker room where his phone is safely tucked into his pants pocket – but he doesn’t make it.  By the time the early morning crew arrives, it’s too late to call for help.

This isn’t just a personal and family tragedy: it can be a legal liability issue for any business that fails to take adequate safety measures to protect employees and customers.

Prepare For Medical Emergencies
If there’s a medical emergency at your business, do your employees know what to do?  What if no employees are present – or someone working alone suffers a fall or other emergency?  It’s not enough to just point out the first-aid kit during employee orientation because the most serious (and common) medical situations require more than a band-aid solution.

Heart attacks, for instance, are quite common.  According to OSHA, almost 900 people per day die from coronary heart disease in locations other than hospitals.  The federal safety agency estimates that up to 60% of the 6628 workplace deaths during 2001-2002 could have been prevented if the proper equipment had been on-site to help the injured person.  That’s why many federal, state, & even local laws require that public buildings and some private businesses maintain automated external defibrillators (AED) on site and train employees to use them.

Health clubs and similar facilities are most often the targets of state and local AED regulations for the simple fact that people go there primarily to exert themselves – sometimes they over-exert and become ill.  For instance:

•        In 2011, Kara Kennedy, sister of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, died of a heart attack after a workout at her health club.
•        In 2007, Massachusetts required all health clubs to have AEDs.  Even before the law took effect, Planet Fitness in Weymouth purchased one – and soon used it to revive a 36-year-old member who collapsed during a workout.
•        In 2011, a personal trainer in Illinois revived two people in two years using an AED.

And yet, some health clubs resist regulations that they feel are too restrictive.  When the Kingston, MA Board of Health required all health clubs to have an employee trained in the use of AEDs on hand during all business hours, the owner of a local 24/7 facility protested.  His facility was open to members, but unstaffed overnight. The owner explained that customers knew they were exercising at their own risk because they “sign contracts saying they take personal responsibility for use of the gym after staffed hours.”

Those contracts may not be enough. Even in the absence of government regulations, health clubs would be wise to take precautions to protect employees and patrons.  A 2004 article in Trial magazine explained that federal regulations “make it difficult for health clubs to argue that AEDs are not yet recognized as necessary safety devices or that there are legal obstacles to having or using them.”  The article provides tips to help other attorneys litigate these types of lawsuits.

Solo Employees & Customers Are At Greatest Risk In A Medical Emergency
Still, the club owner in Kingston did point out a flaw in the over-reliance on AEDs for safety: you can’t use one on yourself.  That puts both employees and customers at risk if only one person is present.  Think of convenience stores and gas stations that have just one person on duty or a health club where someone exercises alone late at night. That’s why many businesses are installing personal medical alert systems.

Health clubs typically place the medical alert console somewhere in the center of the facility and provide alert buttons for the patrons to carry with them during their workout. Typically, the medical alert devices attach to a belt, wristband, or are worn as a necklace.  They don’t impede mobility but do allow the person to push a button and call for help.  Bay Alarm Medical has worked with many companies to install these systems.

Unlike AEDs, there are no regulations requiring medical alert systems, but they can provide an important element of safety and security for employees and customers.  Workplace safety requires a combination of training, infrastructure, and equipment.  Many companies now find that maintaining a safe and secure workplace also means keeping up with the latest technology.

Written by Danielle Garza